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Does Your Dress Code Go Too Far?

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. | Last updated on

Are your employees a little bit too... scruffy and unkempt? Businesses have multiple reasons to institute a dress codes and grooming policies.

A polished, clean-looking workforce can be essential in your field. Customers need to be able to trust your employees. They should also feel comfortable talking to your workers.

Employees that show up like Cousin Itt from the Addams Family may not make the best impression. But business owners should know that sometimes dress code policies can end up breaking the law.

Dress codes are not inherently illegal.

There is nothing wrong with setting down generalized policies. For example, it is usually fine to require workers to wear suits, business casual wear, or employee uniforms.

Dress codes may end up discriminating against gender.

If your grooming policy only imposes dress codes on your female employees you may be violating Title VII. A code that is specifically targeted toward women may indicate disparate treatment.

Dress codes may also discriminate against religion.

Title VII can also be violated if the dress code discriminates against an employee's religion. Some employees may keep their facial hair for religious reasons, or wear headscarves. Policies that require shaved faces and nixes headgear could violate their civil rights. In order for these policies to be enforced an employer will then have to demonstrate there is a valid business necessity.

For more information about dress code policies in your jurisdiction, you may want to contact a local employment attorney. They will be able to advise you on your company's grooming policy. The last think you want to do is face an employee discrimination lawsuit.

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